The ambiguity between beginnings and endings appears to be a theme for Blacks’ Myths, all the way down to the pun in its name (say it out loud). It’s a name which suggests new ideas being forged and old ideas being dispelled. The D.C.-based duo formed last year. Bassist Luke Stewart is one of the most prolific improvisers in the city, playing in a multitude of groups, including the notable Afrofuturist free jazz troupe Irreversible Entanglements. Drummer Warren G. “Trae” Crudup III anchors various jazz outfits, too, but he got his start playing in his church, then in his high school marching band, then in a local go-go group — a trajectory that gives even his loosest drumming a ritualistic rigor.
And on Wednesday night at Comet Ping Pong, Stewart and Crudup were joined by Dr. Thomas “Bushmeat” Stanley, another scene-heavy who delivered two separate soliloquys about American collapse over the band’s generative rumble. His first monologue denounced an “empire in decline” while his second addressed how “we begin the wonderful task of building a new world.” Despair and doomsaying are in high supply these days, but Stanley’s words provided some essential subtext: Our pessimism requires optimism if it’s going to mean anything.
Perhaps with that in mind, Stewart spent the night teasing out his own paradoxes. Seated next to his amplifier, he summoned serrated drones of feedback from his electric bass in ways that ran tranquil and tense. But all of these swells and buzzes ultimately foreshadowed fully formed melodic lines, and whenever Stewart got around to establishing a groove, it always felt sturdy enough to welcome you in, yet simple enough to let you forget about it.
Crudup’s drumming was far more lucid, continuously refusing to forfeit its sense of order, even during extended bursts of unmetered rhythm. The best of it happened around half-past midnight, with Crudup working away at his snare and floor tom, tapping out knotty, explosive phrases. Imagine a cosmic bag of microwave popcorn that everyone in the room could nod their heads to. The music kept big-banging its way into existence.
And after an hour of clamorous world-building, Blacks’ Myths finally simmered into its landing position. Stewart gently plucked the evening’s final note, and instead of letting it decay toward silence, he muted it with the flat of his hand. It was a tiny gesture, but a decisive one. Where an experience ends, a memory begins.